Pontianak (folklore)

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"Kuntilanak" redirects here. For the 2006 film, see Kuntilanak (film).
For other uses, see Pontianak (disambiguation).

The pontianak (Dutch-Indonesian spelling: boentianak, Jawi: ڤونتيانق) is a vampiric ghost in Malay and Indonesian mythology. It is also known as a matianak or kuntilanak, sometimes shortened to kunti. The pontianak are said to be the spirits of women who died while pregnant. This is often confused with a related creature, the lang suir, which is the ghost of a woman who died while giving birth. The word pontianak is reportedly a corruption of the Malay perempuan mati beranak, or “woman who died in childbirth”.[1] Another theory is that the word is a combination of puan (woman) + mati (die) + anak (child). The term matianak means "death of a child". The city of Pontianak in Indonesia is named after this creature, which was claimed to have haunted the first sultan who once settled there.


Pontianaks are usually depicted as pale-skinned women with long hair and dressed in white, but they are said to be able to take on a beautiful appearance since they prey on men.

In folklore, a pontianak usually announces its presence through high-pitched baby cries. If the cry is soft, it means that the pontianak is close, and if it is loud, then it must be far. Some believe that if you hear a dog howling, that means that the pontianak is far away. But if a dog is whining, that means the pontianak is nearby. Its presence can sometimes be detected by a nice floral fragrance identifiable as that of the plumeria, followed by an awful stench afterwards.

A pontianak kills its victims by digging into their stomach with its sharp fingernails and devouring their organs. In some cases where the pontianak desires revenge against a male individual, it rips out the sex organs with its hands. It is said that if you have your eyes open when a pontianak is near, it will suck them out of your head. Pontianak locates its prey by sniffing out the hanging laundry outside. For this reason, some Malays refuse to leave any piece of clothing outside of their house overnight.

The pontianak is associated with banana trees (pokok pisang), and its spirit is said to reside in them during the day.

To fend off a pontianak, a nail should be plunged into the hole on the nape of her neck. This is said to make her turn into a beautiful woman and a good wife until the nail is removed. In the case of the kuntilanak, the nail is plunged into the apex of her head.

The Indonesian kuntilanak is similar to the pontianak, but commonly takes the form of a bird and sucks the blood of virgins and young women. The bird, which makes a "ke-ke-ke" sound as it flies, may be sent through some black magic to make a woman fell sick, the characteristic symptom is vaginal bleeding. In the female form, when a man approaches her she suddenly turns and reveals that her back is hollow, but this apparition is more specifically referred to sundel bolong.


There are numerous sightings of the Pontianak/Lang suir all over South East Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia. Some of them are pranks and most of them are hoaxes. In August 2010 there was a video caught by a group of Malaysian Policeman PDRM in the town of Bentong, Pahang, Malaysia. The 2 minute long video does not show the apparition of the Pontianak in her full form.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

Related folklore[edit]

Main article: Tiyanak

In Philippine folklore, the vampiric tiyanak shares many similarities in terms of origin with the pontianak. However, the tiyanak is the ghost of the child rather than the mother.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee R. The Almost Complete Collection of True Singapore Ghost Stories. 2nd ed. Singapore: Flame of the Forest, 1989.
  2. ^ Chandran83. "PONTIANAK LEPAR HILIR 7,PAHANG,MALAYSIA" YouTube, Pahang, 15 August 2010. Retrieved on 5 February 2013.
  3. ^ "The House of Aunts". 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2015-04-13. 

External links[edit]